Michelle Bridges is a one-woman powerhouse – fronting a booming empire that spans best-selling books, DVDs, exercise wear, a vitamin range with Blackmores, a starring TV role and a distinct voice on the lucrative speakers’ circuit. And we haven’t even mentioned her little digital startup: her 12 Week Body Transformation program that has attracted hundreds of thousands of Australians – making her the unofficial personal trainer to the nation. We asked Michelle Bridges to reveal the secrets to her success.
MC: What kind of boss are you?
MB: When I’m not travelling, I’m usually in the office 3-5 times a week to keep in regular contact with my team, keeping the communication flowing and helping put out any fires. We employ about 70 people in general, but I have a core team of 8-10 people in the MB Team Sydney office and I trust them completely. I like to hand the reins over to them as they know what they’re doing.
MC: How did you transition from personal trainer to running such a massive brand?
MB: I worked in the fitness industry for such a long time. I realised there are only so many things you can do: you can be a personal trainer, be a group fitness instructor, own your own studio etc. I did all those things and I achieved a lot but still I wasn’t fulfilled. I saw that people were hungry for the kind of information I was giving them in personal training sessions and thought I needed to get my message out to more people. So I started writing columns for magazines and newspapers. Then I pitched a fitness segment to morning TV which ended up being popular, before getting the call from The Biggest Loser. I took the risk and quit everything to do it in 2005.
MC: Did you have days when you wanted to throw it all in?
MB: Oh my god YES!! I can’t tell you how many days I spent going backwards, questioning myself and my plans `why am I doing this? It will all fail. But I kept talking myself into it every time: `I can do this.’ `Why not me? If not me, who?’ I just kept refuelling that flame so I was ready to get my hands dirty and do it all again tomorrow.
MC: When did you know that the 12 Week Body Transformation program was going to be a hit?
MB: I remember the first round of 12WBT was so exciting and so memorable and we thought we’d throw a party in Sydney’s Darling Harbour for people who had reached their goals. On the day of the party I sent out an email to those attending to say I’m going for a run in the Domain at midday if anyone wanted to join me. I arrived to see this mass of women and I burst into tears. I remember thinking `Oh my God – these people are real.’ Up until then they were all email addresses. It was magical.
And then I started hearing these women’s stories. There were so many stories – it gives me goosebumps thinking about them. Women were coming up to me and saying `You’ve saved my marriage’; Kids were saying to me `you've given me back my mummy’; women have had babies who previously couldn't fall pregnant. There was one woman I remember who wanted to lose weight so she could donate a kidney to her teenage son. Honestly the stories of achievement are so inspirational – they often leave me in tears. Sometimes I can’t let myself go there cos I think `I have to keep my shit together’.’’
MC: What’s on the agenda for this year from a business perspective?
MB: We are all geared up for a big 2015 because The Biggest Loser will be back on air and my 12th book, Powerful Living, has just launched. We have got a major initiative kicking off next year – we are moving into a whole new category - but it’s currently top secret. Business-wise we have spent the last year beefing up our management team and refining our core competencies ready for the year ahead. It’s going to be a biggie!
MC: What’s happening with your plans in the US?
MB: We’re keeping a presence in the US but we’ve had to scale back due to my time commitments here in Australia. That will change though as we restructure here, then we will look at international markets as a whole which is much more exciting.
MC: What are you personally looking forward to?
MB: One of the big things I am involved in is the Mother’s Day Classic on Sunday May 10th, which I am really excited about. This is particularly close to my heart, because like many people in Australia I have a family history of breast cancer. My Grandmother had a mastectomy and both my mother and I are regularly checked. I am so honoured and proud to be an Ambassador and I can’t wait to see everyone out there in force!" (Visit Mothers Day Classic for details).
MC: What about some time-out?
MB: I won’t see daylight until September so I’ll be ready for a break then. Think sun, pool, margaritas!’’
For the complete interview with Michelle Bridges – including her Top 5 Tips for Success - see the @work pages in the February 2015 issue of marie claire.